DARK chocolates for me are man's best invention second only to ketchup. I'm just so glad for all these health-stuff-antioxidant-voodoo of the new millennium that made dark chocolates more available in the groceries. It wasn't so two decades go.
Dark chocolates were so rare then and were only marketed by the expensive Belgian and Swiss brands such that while in college in Quezon City (when the only difference between you and the people who live in squalor is that you are in school and your board and lodging are all paid for by your parents), I'd wait for Rustan's to go on sale and I'd get my hands on those huge chunks of dark chocolate bars at half their overpriced prices. Otherwise, I make do with my doormmate's stock from the province -- sweetened sikwate balls that are supposed to be prepared as sikwate but which I just nibbled on to get my fix.
These sikwate balls don't melt in your mouth as the overpriced ones would, try chewing on sikwate to get the feel of what I'm describing here. But hey, those were student days when you got by with a couple of hopia de manila from the shopping center and manang's oversized fried lumpiang gulay that were sold outside the dorm when your two weeks' allowance had already trickled into just tinkling coins. (A hopia de manila costs P1 each, manang's lumpiang gulay cost P2.50. Busog!)
I can afford dark chocolates now but still welcome better prospects -- like Filipino brand bars; like the resurrected Goya.
A long time ago, aside from Choc-Nut, which for me had always been very sweet, there were just Serg's and Goya. But between Serg's and Goya, Goya was the better alternative. They made chunky bars with different stuff inside like nuts and raisins and whatever, although they only came in milk chocolates. Not my type really, but for lack of alternatives, I chomp on them anyway. Beggars can never be choosers, I swear.
Comes now the 2000's and the boxes of Goya brand dark chocolates that have made my forays in convenience stores and groceries an exciting hunt.
I first saw the mint flavored ones and have been in a constant lookout for one since over a year ago.
A month ago, I chanced on a fancy box with cacao fillings, the chocolates shaped into seashells. And then just the other day in a Mini-Stop store, I found one that had orange peel. All these are dark chocolates. Hurray! It sure took a long time for these to reach our stores.
Whoever has taken over Goya deserves all the praises (I'm just wondering why these are not as widely marketed).
Two decades... more in fact because local chocolates have been here for ages. We still have the Easter eggs, the gold coins, the bits and pieces passed off as chocolates that taste more like globs of brown-colored chewy gels with a hint of chocolate in them. The bitter zing that makes chocolates taste like yummy chocolates could only be had in sikwate and Belgian and Swiss brands (and very recently, Goya darks). And yet we all know that cacao is a tropical plant. I doubt if Belgium and Switzerland have them growing in their cold land. I can bet my last hopia de manila that majority of Belgians and Swiss have never seen a cacao tree.
So what is it that stands between sikwate and the foreign chocolate masters?
I can say a lot, but that would be bashing the Filipinos, and so I just rejoice that one brand now is at least venturing into what non-cacao producing countries have mastered for so long.
It's just unsettling that on the box of the Orange Peel Goya I am nibbling on now as I type this is written: Manufactured under license from Delfi chocolate Manufacturing S.A. Switzerland.
I bet you watched President Noynoy's inaugural speech. I did. On television, although I was just a few kilometers away because watching on tv is more convenient and comfortable. Like many, I share this flickering hope for some vital changes. Will PNoy manage to weather through whatever it is that has stood between sikwate and the Belgian and Swiss chocolate masters? Or will we just be holding on to the same hope that we have held on 24 years ago when Cory Aquino became president and when dark chocolates were only available as overpriced imported brands?
In the vacation house I have settled in, thick black smoke is rising from the neighborhood maybe a kilometer or two away.
It's the province, far, far away, and there is no sound of fire trucks; makes me even wonder whether this quiet farming town has a fire truck. My host is out in the market two towns away. Apparently, this town doesn't even have a regular public market, maybe.
It's eerie though to watch the thick black clouds rising up, giving you an idea how someone's house is being gobbled up by fire with just the crowing of the gamefowls, the distant barking of dogs and the wailing of... the videoke from the same direction as the fire is. Maybe there is something there that is telling me what stands between sikwate and the Belgian and Swiss chocolate masters. firstname.lastname@example.org